More than 1200 riders from all over South Africa converge upon Pretoria this weekend for the South African Road Championships. The Championships kick off at the Telkom Satellite station near Hartbeespoort Dam on Thursday, March 3, with the time trials and then move on to the city setting of Pretoria for the road races.
The championships culminate in the elite road race, which starts at 12:00 on Sunday, March 6. Masses of spectators are expected at Pretoria’s union buildings when the elite racers go up the climb for a total of 19 laps of the 8.4 km course. The final two laps go up the notorious climb of Tom Jenkins at the back of the Union Buildings.
On this circuit, the Barloworld Valsir duo of Ryan Cox and Tiaan Kannemeyer are the firm favourites, especially with Tom Jenkins having to be conquered twice this time around compared to only once when the champs took place on the same circuit in Pretoria four years ago. On that occasion Cox, still riding for German team Cologne, got the gap on the final climb but he was hauled back before the finish line. That year his teammate Kannemeyer got across the finish line first.
In the under 23 road race, which starts at 11:00 on Saturday, defending champion Eckard Bergh (Minolta Konica) will face some fierce opposition from the likes of (first year under 23 rider) John-Lee Augustyn (Minolta Konica) and Hanco Kachelhoffer (Exel). The noted under 23 sprinters such as Leon Nel (Minolta Konica), Juan van Heerden (Tuks) and Chris Esch are going to struggle to hold on when these guys put the hammer down on Tom Jenkins. Nel won the junior SA’s title on the exact circuit in Pretoria where he couldn’t be shaken on the climb four years ago, so it will be interesting to see if he can hold on this time round.
In the ladies’ road race at 8:00 on Sunday morning, Anke Erlank will fancy her chances on the difficult circuit against her main rival Anriette Schoeman. The course certainly favours Erlank, who has honed her climbing skills very well in her mountain biking career.